Ice Network

Gregory, Petukhov building new family traditions

Olympic ice dancers create holiday celebrations built around son, family
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Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov recently hosted a holiday show in downtown Manhattan. -Courtesy of Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov

For the second straight year, six-time U.S. ice dance medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov are operating The Rink at Brookfield Place, a skating complex located in Lower Manhattan. Sitting next to a high-end mall with shopping outlets and restaurants, the rink, which provides a view of the Hudson River, is an ideal location for the holiday season.

On Sunday, the couple hosted and performed in a holiday show featuring Max Aaron, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin, and two of Petukhov's students.

"We're trying to build awareness of the rink and invite all of our friends and top skaters across the country and worldwide to the rink," Petukhov said. "This season alone, we doubled the crowds from last year. New Yorkers and all the tourists love skating. They can also enjoy scenery and everything downtown Manhattan has to offer.

"Skating and the holidays mix together well," he added. "Everybody is in the winter spirit. Putting people in the holiday mood is exciting for us, especially since this crowd was really warm and welcoming."

For most of the season -- the rink is only open from November to March -- Gregory and Petukhov spend their weekdays in Connecticut, where they coach at different rinks while also overseeing the activities at Brookfield on weekends.

The couple, married for more than 15 years, welcomed son Dax two years ago, and since then have introduced their little one to a diverse blend of holiday traditions. From Hanukkah and Christmas, which reflect Gregory's background, to festive New Year's celebrations for Petukhov, this year is even more special, as Dax is walking and talking.

They, along with Dax and Petukhov's mother, will spend the entire week from Christmas to New Year's Day in New York, with their holiday celebrations culminating in a New Year's Eve gala at the rink in honor of Petukhov's Russian heritage. Although American Christmas traditions are quite foreign to Petukhov's mother, he said she totally enjoys all the lights, trees, music and overall festive atmosphere.

Growing up, Gregory's family had Christmas stockings that were blue and white (the colors of the Israeli flag), and were adorned with Stars on David and the word "Shalom." Gregory is thinking of reviving that tradition.

"Dax is starting to understand the holidays are a special time and everybody is happy and there's music playing everywhere, so it's getting fun now to start celebrating holidays with him," Gregory said. "This is the first time Dax will light the menorah and we'll sing. I think it's going to be really cool."

Throughout their marriage, Gregory and Petukhov haven't been big on exchanging holiday presents with each other. Rather, they give each other gifts at random times when they see something special. She said they're going to change that up a bit to get in the spirit for Dax.

"Having a child changes everything," Gregory said. "It makes you go back and appreciate and pay attention to what the holidays really mean because you're trying to teach him about it."

Gregory said the crowds at their show were enthusiastic and energetic, and that she and Petukhov enjoyed getting everyone into the holiday spirit. Fraser and Lukanin also have a young child, which helped create a family feel backstage.

"Everybody was happy," Gregory said. "We tried to create a show that has a little bit of everything. We made it fun for everybody, so that families can come, kids can enjoy it and parents have something to create the family aspect."

"You can feel the holiday spirit," Petukhov said. "It's quite beautiful."